How does domestic abuse affect children? Millions of children experience direct physical harm by an abusive parent, and approximately 3.3 million witness abuse in their homes each year.
- Exposure to the physical or emotional abuse of a parent has many of the same effects as being a direct target.
- When one parent abuses the other, there’s a 30-60% chance that the children are also being abused.
- The effects of being exposed to abuse can be severe and long-lasting, impairing a child’s ability to communicate with others and form healthy relationships.
- When children live with abuse, they learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
Is a child you know living with abuse?
Below are some possible signs that a child may be living with abuse, but it is important to remember that these signs may be related to other issues such as stress, trauma, or developmental disabilities.
- Often has unexplained injuries.
- Acts shy, withdrawn, or too eager to please
- Avoids going home
- Wears long-sleeved clothing in warm weather
- Talks about abuse
- Seems nervous and fearful
- Exhibits overactive or destructive behaviors
- Acts afraid to be touched by adults
- Has difficulty getting along with other children
- Shows constant anxiety
- Seems depressed
- Exhibits low sense of self-worth
How Can You Help? Appropriate Responses Include…
- Help the child think of a safe place to go when fighting or abuse begins.
- Warn them against attempts to stop the fighting. Make it clear that it’s good they want to stop it but that intervening isn’t safe.
- Make sure they have access to a phone and know how to call 911. Ask if they feel safe.
- Calling 911, if needed. If not, ask who they can call or what they can do instead.
- Make sure that they know it’s not their fault.
- Try not to pass judgment on the abuser. Kids often love the person who’s doing the hurting.
- Ask if there’s someone they can talk to about the problem, such as a teacher, the other parent, a caregiver, counselor, etc.
- Tell them that they are not alone.
If someone is abusing you, or if someone you know is being abused, please contact our Helpline. We’ll work with you as you explore your options and you decide what’s best for you. You don’t deserve to live in fear. No one does.